“Why should I care about online privacy? I have nothing to hide.”
I hear this argument–or something like it–almost every day. Maybe you’re one of the ones making it. I may not be able to make you care, but let me show you why you’re wrong.
Maybe you think you have nothing to hide online, that you don’t ever do anything embarrassing or illegal or even awkward if taken out of context. I don’t believe that. If that were the case, then would you mind if I took a look at your Google search history? How about your phone pics? While I’m at it, how about I view footage of your drunkest moments? Or your Facebook message inbox? You know what? I’ll just stand here while you shower. Don’t mind me.
Most of us (sociopaths excluded) would be uncomfortable with the situations I just described. Privacy is not about negatives, like what you have to hide–it’s about what you have to live for. It’s the freedom to say what you want, visit the websites you want, go to protests, search for terms that you’re curious about, associate with any group or individual you want, to really live a free life.
Think about how differently you act when you’re at home compared to in public. Imagine how you feel when you’re at home in your bedroom, then contrast that with putting yourself on stage at a college graduation ceremony. Not only would you be more stressed, you’d worry more about how you came across, what people thought of you, and whether you’re being “appropriate.” No one acts the same when they’re being watched.
And let’s get one thing straight: we’re all being watched on the Internet, whether it’s by potential employers, hundreds of faceless ad companies you’ve never heard of that track your every click and purchase, ex-spouses, stalkers, the government, and big data companies like Google that know the content of every email you’ve ever sent, every video you’ve watched on YouTube, every calendar appointment you’ve made, and every search you’ve ever run online.
Those of us who understand this risk tailor our behavior accordingly. We censor ourselves. We become intentionally uncontroversial; unintentionally boring. We don’t say and do what we truly want because it might put us at risk for punishment later. Privacy lets us choose our audience and match our behavior accordingly.
That’s why privacy matters. Privacy is the freedom to control our own lives, not something that only “bad people” need. Let’s stop taking such a limited view of privacy and embrace it–and protect it–for the essential freedoms that it provides us.
I’m a proud privacy advocate, but I know that not everyone is. Yet even if you’re not as pro-privacy as I am, you can still admit that you have things in your life worth fighting for, words worth speaking, dance parties worth having. It’s not that you have nothing to hide…it’s that you have a lot to live for.